"The little experience I've had with Redhat/Fedora/LTSK12 vs. Mandrake 9.2 leads me to believe that Redhat/Fedora is much bettter"
Of the rpm based distributions (Fedora, Mandrake, Red Hat, and SuSE) Mandrake is probably the easiest to install. So Mandrake is what we usually recommend to a newbie for their first installation.
Once you become more experienced with Linux then you will want to configure things your own way. Judged by configuration flexibility then SuSE is the best and Mandrake the worst of the four distributions.
", though for some reason I really love everything I've discovered on the Knoppix 3.3 (offshoot of Debian) complete CD and am tempted to install above others when the 3.4 comes out, love a lot of the different derivatives of the bootable CD and if anyone has anymore advice on the subject"
Debian is harder to install than the first four distributions that I discussed. But it is very configurable and is probably the easiest distribution to maintain. If you are interested in Debian or Knoppix I recommend that you use Debian. Knoppix is a subset of Debian and you might as well use the full enchilada.
And then there is Slackware. Slackware installs exactly what you tell it to install and no more. From there on you are own your own. People who are willing to put the work into Slackware can create some lean, mean machines.
So the choice is yours. Install whatever strikes you as meeting your needs best.
Be prepared. Create a LifeBoat CD.